The first time I tried this prompt, I ended up writing about a seashell that belonged to my grandmother. She told me it was from the Gulf of Mexico--a place as foreign as Mars to me--and I used to spend hours holding it to my ear to "hear the ocean." Although I have no idea what happened to the original shell, I do have one very much like it: dark brown, gray, and cream stripes on a swirly, spiral sort of mini-conch (I don't know how else to describe it, apologies to the marine biologists out there!). Regardless of my inability to scientifically categorize the shell, writing about it, and then drawing an accompanying picture into my journal released a flood of memories that in their turn became further journal entries. It also reconnected me to a time that was very special in my life and one that I'm sure contributed to me being the writer I am today.
It doesn't really matter how you approach this exercise. You might want to choose an object first and then write about it, followed with a drawing or a collage of the object; or you could choose to first write about a specific memory that brings to mind an object you want to illustrate. Have fun with your choice of mediums: colored pencil, watercolor paints, crayons, or even a photograph you then photocopy and alter in some way with pencils or paint--it all works. Don't forget to add playful embellishments to your page(s): fabric swatches, scraps of lace or trim, glitter glue, feathers, buttons, pressed flowers or leaves--use whatever appeals to you and helps re-live the memory. There's no such thing as a right way to do this!
Some ideas for objects to spark written and illustrated memories can include:
- A favorite item of clothing: dress, shirt, shoes, hat, etc.
- Your first car.
- First pet (not exactly an object, but you know what I mean).
- A favorite book, especially one from childhood
- A treasured piece of jewelry--the one you love regardless of monetary value.
- A vacation souvenir.
- A photograph.
- A tree or plant in your garden.
- Childhood toy.
- A family heirloom.
- An item from childhood that you could only play with or hold on special occasions.
- Holiday decorations.
- A religious or sacred item.
- A random item quickly selected from your shelf. It reminds you of -- ?
- A detested item of clothing you were forced to wear, e.g., a school uniform or an unflattering bridesmaid dress.
- A gift you didn't want. But had to accept.
- A piece of clutter you want to get rid of, but can't.
- A broken appliance still hanging around.
- Housework tools: mops, brooms, sponges, buckets, ugh.
- Most disliked food.
- Something owned by a person who gets on your nerves.
- An item owned by that same person that you wish was yours (especially when you think they don't deserve it, LOL! Getting deep here....)
- Weeds or dead plants in your garden.
- Your worst photo--ever.
I find that aiming for at least 500-1000 words is a good goal for this exercise; it's enough to really sink into the subject. However, once you've written your piece, you might not want to keep absolutely all of it. You may want to grab your scissors and cut (or tear) out your best or most important lines, and then paste them into your drawing to create a collage. Another technique is to take those lines and turn them into a found poem--rearranging your thoughts and adding more lines as they occur to you. And if you'd prefer total privacy along with some instant artwork, stacked journaling is always an exciting approach to fully express yourself.
Tip of the Day: Wherever you are right now, pick up the object nearest to you. How does it make you feel? Why is it in your life? Where's it from? What does it remind you of? It doesn't matter how small or insignificant the item is--just explore and write down your feelings. Use this as a practice session, although it could very well turn into just the right piece to add to your art journal.